Advocating for education is not always something you can do from the comfort of your own home. It’s certainly not easy to deliver your message, with many issues getting pulled into partisan debates with one side against the other.
But that did not deter a number of Illinois parents earlier this week from visiting Washington, DC to attend a Congressional hearing and meet with their U.S. Senators. They all knew they had to be there. To stand up for our kids. To know that their voices were heard.
With the new Congress focused on reauthorizing the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, it was clear to several Stand members that speaking out in DC was worth the effort. Everyone has heard about No Child Left Behind, but when these Stand parents learned more about the potential changes, they quickly realized just how big of an impact the law has on our children. The bill was originally a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. That included the government’s aid program for students from disadvantaged areas, and NCLB includes other means of measuring student achievement through goals and tests.
Upon arriving on Capitol Hill early Wednesday, the parents immediately got in line to attend the hearing of the Senate education committee. The need for parent voices in the discussion is more urgent now than ever, and these Stand members were eager to hear the witness testimony and questions from Senators about this bill. The Illinois contingent included Darlene Williams and Juanita Ariola from North Lawndale, Ebony Carr from Bronzeville, Teresa Gosa from Englewood, Tommorrow Snyder from South Shore, and Principal Ana Martinez of Rowe Elementary School.
Following the hearing, they split into groups and went to meet with staff from the offices of Illinois’ U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk. During the meetings, the parents stressed to the staff members the huge importance of directing more resources to high-poverty schools and the need for continued federal oversight of NCLB issues. They also mentioned the need to maintain regular testing to ensure that schools are held accountable for results and that children from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds receive the same educational opportunities as other students. The parents – and Stand – look forward to working with the legislators as the bill moves through the Senate.
Equality in our communities – true equality – isn’t just about race or income. By nearly every measure in America today, that means having access to a high quality education. That’s why our parent leaders flew halfway across the country to advocate for their kids and all kids across Illinois. And it’s why now is the time to add your voice and contact our Senators to tell them to improve No Child Left Behind.